1. Coronado Beach, California
Leatherman's annual ranking rates 650 public beaches on 50 criteria that include the presence of native plants, water quality, and overcrowding. Most of the 2012 beaches were also listed in the best beaches of 2011.
A 1.5-mile (2.4-kilometer) stretch of flat, sandy shore, Coronado Beach is great for skim-boarding and walking-plus, the mineral mica lends the sand a silvery sheen, according to the Dr. Beach website.
"Dr. Leatherman's annual list does a service by providing an incentive to keep American beaches clean and enjoyable for all," Jonathan Tourtellot, the geotourism editor for National Geographic Traveler magazine, said by email.
However, "his methodology does tend to give high weight to family friendliness and a bit less weight to the character of the beach locale," Tourtellot said. (Related: top ten U.S. family beaches.)
"Thus an urban beach like Kahanamoku Beach at Waikiki gets equal billing with more pristine surroundings like those at Coast Guard Beach in the Cape Cod National Seashore."
Leatherman noted by email that he also takes into account the "overall environmental quality and scenic aspects of the surrounding areas—these are factors in my 50 criteria."